It was a great day to be a favorite in the Africa Cup of Nations on Monday, as all four countries expected to move on clinched berths in the knockout stage.
In the early pair of kickoffs, Ivory Coast stormed Namibia 4-1 while Morocco needed a late goal to top South Africa 1-0. The late kicks saw Algeria blitz Tanzania 3-0 with a strong first half and Senegal topped Kenya 2-0.
Wilfried Zaha got his first goal of the tournament in the win for the Ivory Coast, sealing the game with a low line drive in the 84th minute to make it 3-1 before Maxwel Cornet finished off the scoring five minutes later. Former Bournemouth winger Max Gradel opened the scoring 39 minutes in with a blast from a tight angle with the only goal of the first half, while Basel midfielder Serey Die put them 2-0 up near the hour mark. Namibia made it 2-1 with 19 minutes to go but Zaha’s goal finished off the game.
While that saw the Ivory Coast seal a knockout spot, Morocco got a late goal to pip South Africa, earning the top spot in Group D and dooming South Africa to a perilous position among the third-place table. M’bark Boussoufa scored the all-important goal in the 90th minute, poking home amid a scrum on a free-kick delivered into the box from the left flank.
In Group C action, Algeria made it three wins in three after a trio of first-half goals eased them through past Tanzania, eliminating the minnows in just their second-ever tournament. Leicester City striker Islam Slimani opened the scoring in the 34th minute, and Algeria got a brace from young Napoli winger Adam Ounas to put them up big at the break. Slimani’s came on a brilliant long-ball over the top from Ounas who split the center-backs perfectly and allowed the Foxes striker to finish it off cooly past Metacha Mnata. Ounas scored his first five minutes later on a fabulous one-two with Slimani, while his second and Algeria’s third found the back of the net with the last kick of the game on the break as Ounas whizzed past Tanzania defender Mohamed Husseini before rounding Mnata with a touch from his right.
With Algeria on top, Senegal finished second by taking down Kenya 3-0 behind a brace from Sadio Mane. After a scoreless first half that saw Mane miss from the penalty spot, Stade Rennais youngster Ismaila Sarr put Senegal ahead with a wonderful volley after Kenya goalkeeper Patrick Matasi whiffed on a cross and left the goal gaping. With the 1-0 lead and a half-hour to go, Mane took control and grabbed his first by latching onto a blasted clearance by Lamine Gassama who just booted the ball out into the attacking half where just Mane was patrolling, and he raced right between the pair of defenders for a fastbreak finish. He grabbed his second on a penalty in the 78th minute, making amends for earlier by burying his spot-kick in the low right-hand corner, and while Matasi guessed right he came up just short.
At this stage in the competition, there is just one more round of games tomorrow before the knockout stage is set. Teams confirmed through via the group stage are Egypt, Uganda, Madagascar, Nigeria, Algeria, Senegal, Morocco, and Ivory Coast while Guinea and Democratic Republic of Congo are both already assured of a spot via the third-place table. Groups E and F will wrap up on Tuesday as Mali and Cameroon are in the pole positions with Tunisia, Angola, Mauritania, Ghana, Benin, and Guinea-Bissau all in the hunt.